For those of you who've never watched Ben Hur, a denarius is an Ancient Roman coin from whence came the phrase, "buddy can you spare a denarius". This game has nothing to do with Ancient Rome or with money. So they could have called it "peseta" of "fifty pence piece".
Anyway, forgetting the usual crummy blurb, this is an upward scrolling Uridium-type game. The mothership deposits you at the beginning of each level and you zap nasties and pick up what the crummy blurb calls chlorine pods. They look more like chunks of Cadbury's Dairy Milk to me! And you don't actually pick anything up, you just fly over them.
Apart from Dairy Milk, each of the 16 levels is dotted with plasma shielded buildings, a crummy blurb term for things you crash into and lost a life. That's it really. The mothership scoops you up again at the end of the level (no docking, surprise surprise) and then you're confronted by one of those fast-reaction bonus intervals before going on to the next level and more of the same. Not very gripping, eh?Despite this mind-curdling lack of originality, Denarius is a good game simply because it's very well dressed up, it plays well and is reasonably difficult. Unlike most games, the sequence of nasties on each of the levels is not always predictable. Something mean and unexpected always manages to fly in and snatch your last life.
Annoyingly, though, each loss of life puts you back to the beginning of that level and you don't get three more lives whenever you complete a level - you need 25,000 points to gain another life.
Meanest of all the nasties is the Chinese dragon, which appears irregularly and won't let you escape until you've lost yet another life. Here's a tip. The only way to get rid of it is to hit your "activate immunity" button the spacebar will do as soon as it appears and keep on blasting until it's had enough and gives up the ghost. By the way, immunity only lasts for about five seconds and takes some time to recharge.
The other nasties are up to standard too: gobstoppers with gnashing teeth, gyrating hoola hoops, formation-flying Sanatogen pills, etc. They're all pretty good.
Graphics are competent but not brilliant. The trouble is that we're all getting a bit bored with this metal relief terrain stuff; lots of squares, lots of shadow and lots of stuff to bash into. Oh, and the title is pretty good too, and thankfully it doesn't play when you're playing.
Firebird has a reputation for producing really good shoot-'em-up cheapos and Denarius if no exception. It's a very impressive piece of programming but there's absolutely nothing impressive or original about it. Then again, if it was original, they'd be selling it for an arm and a leg.